Blog post

Tell All Your Friends!

6 min read
17 Jul 2015

This year I finally took the Giving What We Can pledge and now donate 10% of my income to the most effective charities. It’s been a really rewarding experience, and I have got to know a fantastic community of like-minded people in the process. I join 1100 other people who donate 10% or more of their income with Giving What We Can. Together we’ve pledged $434 million to some of the best charities out there. What could be more incredible that that?


How about 2200 members? $868 million pledged?

Giving What We Can doubled their membership in 2014 and broke 1000 members this year. We are planning to double our members and thus our impact.

We can help.

We can grow the membership, we can increase the funds raised, we can spread the word.

We can be advocates.

You may have seen a few posts on Giving What We Can about the value of starting a chapter. Jonathan Courtney, Director of Outreach at Giving What We Can, conservatively estimated that you could raise 100,000 USD for effective charities.

I’ve started one myself and it’s not as difficult as you’d think. Whilst the more long-term nature of the relationships formed and the community aspect of chapters make new pledges more likely, you don’t have to start a chapter to have a similar impact.

If you convince just one friend to switch their current donation to a more effective one then you’ve increased the good done in the world. If you convince them to take the pledge then you’ve doubled your own impact.

Who will spread the word if not us?

Yes, we have meta charities like Giving What We Can spreading the word. There are also some popular books on the subject. But we need to take responsibility for getting the message out there too. In fact, people are more likely to believe their peers. We trust people who are like us. ()

Global spending on ice cream is more than double the money needed to provide education, sanitation and healthcare for all. There is enough money in the developed world to meet the most basic needs of the world's poorest people, many times over.

With enough people on board we can bring about unprecedented change.

So where do we start?

I recently posed the question: what kind of fundraiser are you? to get people thinking about all of the different ways we can raise extra cash for our top charities. Not only is fundraising an excellent way of funding more deworming tablets, malaria nets and fortified nutrition but it can also be the perfect way to start a conversation about effective giving.

When I ran a half marathon to raise money for the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative I took a sponsorship form to the pub when I met my friends and round my office at work.

Raising money for what? so many of my friends asked.“The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative” I answer each one (very proud to have learnt how to say it). “They provide treatment to people in Africa who’ve contracted diseases from infected water. It may not sound like much but I chose them because they are one of the most effective charities you can give to, 50p from you is one tablet to treat someone for a year” From there I often went on to discuss how I really recommend looking at the GiveWell or Giving What We Can websites to find effective charities to donate to.

Fundraising is the perfect chance to advocate. You’re approaching your friends and family. They want to support you. And they want to know why on earth you are running a marathon or living on only £1.50 a day. Now is your chance to tell them why you’re excited to be fire walking or hiking up a mountain: because it’s an opportunity to save lives.

If you’re organising a social event for charity (like a coffee morning or a dinner), then it’s completely acceptable to talk about your charity and why you’re donating. In fact it could be one of the most effective things you could do.

By talking about the top charities we can normalise looking for effectiveness in charities and start moving funds to where they will be better spent. By normalising giving we can increase the funds available in the first place.

This is where I’ve not practiced what I’m currently preaching. I rarely tell people that I’m giving away 10% of my income. I don’t often say to friends or colleagues that I care so much for these more effective charities that I happily give away an above average amount to help others.

Talking about money feels awkward. I remember being warned at work that it’s not appropriate to discuss pay. And telling people that I donate that much, isn’t that just bragging? Look at me I’m such a fantastic person. Self deprecation feels much more acceptable (and British).

But perhaps we need to change this culture.

Inspiring change requires positive examples, not just dire warnings. It is important to remain critical, but if we only talk in negatives then we feed the idea that there is nothing any individual can do to make a difference.

Take poverty. So often people talk of it as an insurmountable problem - and if it cannot be tackled, why bother to donate? It won’t make any difference anyway. And yet talk of corruption and huge numbers of people still in poverty ignores what we have achieved. The number of children dying before their fifth birthday worldwide declined by nearly half since 1990. We’ve also halved the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than the equivalent of $1.25 a day) over the same period.

So perhaps I should be telling people I donate 10% of my income. Not only can I share my own positive experience but also that if I - a median wage worker, similar in so many ways to so many of my friends - can do this, anyone can.

Since I went vegan, I’ve noticed that for many of the people in my life veganism has gone from a strange, fringe concept to something almost every day. They see me happily living my normal life, they bake me vegan cakes, they naturally check ingredients on office biscuits and wonder why there are bits of cow in jelly sweets.

We need to do something similar with effective giving. If I can tell my friends and colleagues that I give 10% of my income away but show I’m not living like a hermit, I’m not a saint and I am all the happier for it, this normalises giving too.

I’d like to see a world where more people realise how rich they are and the huge impact they can have in other people’s lives. But that’s not going to come about on it’s own. No one wants to do something big alone. One of the things that really kept me interested in effective giving in the first place was the supportive online community. We need to bring that community out into our offices, homes, social clubs and friendship circles.

So let’s increase our impact this year. Fundraise and tell people all about the most effective charities in the process. Donate and tell people you do so that people see more and more of their peers are giving.

Spread the word. We donate 10% to the most effective charities - let’s get our friends to do the same.